Not a hexagon, but a circle – determining the meaning of the spheres in Bumble’s hive.


When I was learning how to use Bumble, I quickly became familiar with the meaning of the little circles that swooped around the many faces of my matches.

The 50 shades of swiping are associated with different categories of matches, and they provide hints for how to play this dating game:

  • Yellow means you’ve made a match (aka you both swiped right on each other)
  • When you purchase the VIP package, blue marks an expiring connection (and for both these pay-to-play bees and the regular users, a red circle appears when you have 60 minutes left to say hey!)
  • Also for the “VIP bees”: a green circle glows when someone swipes right on you before you’ve responded with a left or right swipe
  • A grey circle means that match has expired – boy bye! (until they inevitably reappear in your swipe-able list because Bumble runs out of users in your area)

Swiping is pretty seamless, and I am sure many of you can relate to getting a little swipe-happy as you realize how many lust-love interests are at the flick of your fingertips.

However, your level of engagement with the app changes when a circle alerts you that you’ve matched with a bee. When this occurs, the yellow border begins full – a bright sphere of hope for a potential connection. As you – the chooser – hum, ha and try not to look desperate by responding too quickly, that yellow circle begins to shrink with each passing hour- a time-sensitive feature that is unique to Bumble.

There are many reasons why women may choose not to follow up on someone they swiped right for. Maybe you are still really interested, but you can’t think of the right opener. Or, maybe you’ve been Bumbling for too long and are experiencing the digital dating burnout that causes you to see starting a new conversation as merely prolonging an inevitable game of hide and swipe.

Regardless of your reason for not engaging, there’s a strong likelihood that many times you will watch your chances to interact with a new male bee tick down toward the one-hour mark. When you’re in the danger zone, your happy yellow circle turns into the colour we all associate with a warning – red.  This circle seems to say, “Stop what you’re doing and reach out, don’t let the swipe of your life slip away!”

Even if you’ve decided you’re not really interested in engaging the match, that transition from one primary colour to another often incites feelings of panic: “Is Mr. Right about to disintegrate right before my eyes?”

Dependent on how many viable matches and conversations I had on the go during my digital dating dalliances, sometimes when I noticed the time to touch base with my match was shrinking, I would reneg on my rejection and say hello (or some more clever form of that, if I felt so inclined). Other times, I was so caught up in the titillation of flirtation with others, I barely noticed the warm yellow fading into its cryptic counterpart.

You can’t put all your circles in one basket

Bumble’s circles always remind you of something. Whether it’s that the ball is in your court and, yet again, you are the one obligated to reach out; the fact you’ve swiped too generously and now have a bunch of undesirable ducks in a row; or the most cruel of fates – that one of your hottest flames has pulled their face from your ranks by unmatching you.

Why do these circles matter so much? Because they’re not just circles. There are human bee-ings on the other side of that cylindrical figure. Not to mention, your heart is also on the curve. When you see one of the matches you’re interested in suddenly disappear from your list, you can’t help but wonder:

“Did they find someone better than me?”

“Was it a glitch?”

“Why’d they swipe right in the first place?”

Bumble’s nagging messages from “HQ” further accentuate the emotionality of the circles and your uncertain dating fate. The app taunts you with reminders that, “You’re buzzworthy! Swipe to see who likes you,” or “Don’t forget you only have 24 hours to say hello,” and “Now your match has 24 hours to respond.”

Ugh, it’s high-pace, high-volume, high-pressure dating that leaves me having way too many internal dialogues about shapes, colours and swipes. Who would have ever thought my love life would be a reverberation of the Hasbro game Perfection.

For an app that’s relatively easy to use, Bumbling was never really “easy” for me because despite the digital environment, my very real feelings were always inside that hive. Even when I thought I had emotionally removed myself, those circles would remind me of the overarching clock that many women hear ticking as they attempt to sift through a sea of bees to find the one who will treat them like the queen.

Why the urgency? There’s still time to swipe right into someone’s arms, right? So, why does the app make it feel like you’re in an escape room and each circle represents an essential clue to the mystery of your dating life?

I think the answers to these questions may say a lot about our personal circumstances – and the broader social narratives about dating and ourselves in the digital landscape that many of us are currently navigating. Throughout my blogs and my book, Sticky, Sexy, Sad, I will attempt to work through what some of these implications may be; why they matter; and how we can work within – and against them – to enhance our relationships.

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